Another minicamp is in the books and the idea of organizing it seems more brilliant every year.
Pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti get to check out another collection of arms. New players get acclimated to the coaches and the facility, giving them a head start on spring training next month. The Orioles can check on players coming off injuries and surgeries. Everyone in the organization eases back into baseball mode after shutting off that part of their brains and recuperating from another grueling season.
It’s voluntary, but what player is going to pass on the opportunity? As manager Buck Showalter said, an invitation is a feather in the cap.
The best was saved for last. Third baseman Manny Machado arrived yesterday, worked out and had trouble containing his enthusiasm for his good health and the idea of a normal spring training. He’s far ahead of how he felt last year at this time.
I can’t recall seeing Machado this excited about anything since he arrived in the majors. It was fun to be around him.
Machado has divided his time between Sarasota and Miami, with a wedding and honeymoon in between. He doesn’t consider the Miami portion to be a “rehab.” He’s moved past it.
“I’ve been having my normal offseason with my lifting, my running, getting prepared for a long season,” he said. “I think that’s what I needed. I needed to get over that rehab hump, get over rehabbing. I think that’s already... I’ve got that in my back pocket. Now it’s time to train and get ready for a long season that I haven’t been able to play. That’s what I’ve been doing down in Miami, getting ready for the season.”
Rule 5 pitcher Jason Garcia made the strongest impression this week. He threw Monday and again yesterday, his effortless delivery a thing of beauty. So clean that you could eat off it.
Garcia’s velocity also created a lot of chatter among Orioles who observed his bullpen sessions. He’s not throwing with maximum effort in January, but he’s still popping the mitt.
The Red Sox didn’t want to leave him exposed in the Rule 5 draft, but they ran out of space on the 40-man roster. Garcia was probably No. 41. He hasn’t pitch above the Single-A level and the Red Sox were hoping that teams would pass on him.
The Astros chose Garcia, 22, with the fourth pick and the Orioles acquired him for cash considerations. They already had the deal in place.
“It was really weird,” Garcia said. “I’m still trying to understand how the whole Rule 5 thing works. I had gotten a phone call that the Astros took me and then minutes later I got one that I was traded to the Orioles, so it was a little weird. It all happened pretty quick.
“I was surprised at first, but I’m excited. It’s a new chapter. Just ready for this spring. Go out there and show what I’ve got.”
Showalter’s eyes light up when Garcia’s name is mentioned, but he doesn’t want to say too much about the kid. In the meantime, he’s got to be wondering how he’d make room for Garcia in the bullpen.
The Orioles knew about Garcia because the right-hander faced them in instructional league. He blew away their hitters, including Chris Davis.
“Did pretty good,” Garcia said. “Instructs went pretty well for me. Just trying to find a rhythm. Came back from Tommy John this year, so I went to instructs and everything started clicking.”
The noise grew louder and his velocity climbed after a move to the bullpen.
“At first it was kind of the same as it was last year, and then I had a little lat strain and took 10 days off and they decided to put me in the bullpen,” Garcia said. “Started coming in for an inning or two and that’s when it kind of spiked up all of a sudden. I think they had me somewhere in triple digits. I’m not too sure.”
The Orioles have kept past Rule 5 picks Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland. They’re bringing two more to camp - Garcia and Logan Verrett, who’s more polished because he’s pitched at Triple-A. Showalter said he could keep both if they earn the spots.
I have no idea how he’d do it, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
“I’m trying not to overthink it,” Garcia said. “Just try to take it day by day. Still playing the same old game.”
I’ll close with a final thought on reports that the Orioles and Blue Jays are discussing compensation for executive vice president Dan Duquette and a deal is nearly complete.
I’ve also heard that compensation has been discussed. However, a deal isn’t close to being done.
If a proposal hasn’t been presented to managing partner Peter G. Angelos, Duquette isn’t packing his bags for Toronto. It hasn’t reached that stage. Just like when the Orioles negotiate with free agents. Ownership doesn’t get involved until it’s serious.
Angelos made it clear to me last night that he expects Duquette to fulfill the last four years of his contract. He said that he’s not aware of any “negotiations” and is irritated by reports suggesting that they exist.
I didn’t expect this story to disappear last month and it’s still going to linger. And it’s going to remain a distraction with a month remaining before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
That’s a problem.
I’ve heard the situation described as “toxic” by more than one person in the organization.
That’s also a problem.
This story still has legs. You can’t run away from it.